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Mary's Secret Garden - Vegan Restaurant in Ventura, California


Mary's Secret Garden Organic Vegan Bistro is located at 100 S. Fir St., Ventura.
For more information, call 641-3663.

You are what you eat

Mary Grayr, owner of Mary's Secret Garden, went vegan and never looked back

By Wendy Gillett

Signs can come in many forms throughout our lives and each one can change who we are inside. From the day we are born, we have all had moments of clarity, seen the light and changed our ways. The parting of the seas, talking to the other side, and even "New Coke" have all been considered insights into things to come. For Mary Grayr, though, owner of Mary's Secret Garden Organic Vegan Bistro in downtown Ventura, the sign came in the form of a bumper sticker on the back of a car. And she has not looked back.

Four years ago, before Grayr cut animal products completely out of her life and became a vegan, she had a very different lifestyle altogether. As a high-profile chef in Los Angeles who grew up in a food-oriented family, she was never concerned with her diet. But with a lifetime of health issues and after the stress of her job became too much, she decided to cash in her savings and travel to the South of France. The only downside to her European excursion was all the rich foods she lived on while there. She came back feeling even more unhealthy than before she left. Doctors were unable to uncover the reason for her aches or a cure for her lifetime of pains. It was not until a visit to a holistic healer that she discovered her health concerns had to do more with what she was eating than anything else. So she started on an educational journey that would change her life, schooling herself on what effect food can have on your body, mind and soul. She realized that she needed to make a change.

Then one day, as she was getting onto the freeway in Los Angeles, she found herself behind a car with a bumper sticker that read "Go Vegan." Later that same evening, after she had driven across the city running errands and visiting friends, she found herself behind the same exact car again entering onto the freeway. "What are the odds in a city that big?" she says. "That was a sign, and I got it."

She says changing her lifestyle was not difficult at all, because she was so ready to do it. Once she put in what was good and took out what was bad, her taste buds changed -- and so did her health. "I am a completely different person now. When I took animal products and toxins out of my body, it changed my focus, concentration and inner peace."

With her new-found knowledge she decided to open her own restaurant and spread the word to others. The greatest hurdle Mary encounters, she says, is that because vegan food has a bad reputation, people expect it to taste bad. "But I can take a meat eater and change their mind about vegan food" Grayr says. "They love it not because it is vegan but because it is good." And with magnificent menu items, all made from animal-free organic ingredients, like Thai Cauliflower Soup and Papaya Mint Salad, or the BBQ Tofu sandwich and "Rawviolis" there is something for every taste.

The trick to eating healthier, she says, "is focusing on what you can eat as opposed to what you can't. I opened this restaurant because if someone like me, a pastry chef and a meat eater, can make a change -- anyone can do it!"

So if you find yourself looking for a sign, try the one outside of Mary's on the corner of Fir and Santa Clara in downtown Ventura, it may not change your life but -- Actually, who knows? If Mary has anything to do with it, maybe it will.

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